ISLAM & MUSLIM FOSTERING – FOSTER CARE LINK PROVIDING CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE SUPPORT TO FOSTER CARERS
Foster Care Link is the UKs only Muslim Specialist Independent Fostering Agency. Our team consists of fully qualified social workers who are educated and experienced in Islamic teachings and practices, and how these may be interpreted culturally by different Muslim communities and individuals. Our specialism in Islamic Fostering has been a great resource in helping to demystify and explain the religious and cultural practices and issues experienced by our Muslim Foster children and Muslim Foster Carers to our partners in Local Authority social services teams and other relevant professional disciplines. Our knowledge and expertise in this field have been invaluable for sensitively managing challenging situations between Muslim carers, foster children, Local Authority Social Care and other relevant professional teams around the child. This has enabled those involved in making informed decisions which ultimately improved the outcomes achieved for our Muslim foster children and foster carers.
CASE STUDY 1: PROVIDING CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE SUPPORT TO FOSTER CARERS
What was the issue?
In one case, our Foster carers encountered challenges when a foster child that was placed with them began to practise his religion. The foster carers were a Muslim couple who were not as informed of the level of practice the young person was aiming for. They did not have a deep understanding about the different norms and practices across the different denominations/schools of thought within Sunni Islam. The child in question was a young 15-year-old boy who began to practise the Maliki school of Sunni Islam when he was in a placement with our agency’s foster carers.
A situation arose when the young person (in adherence to his beliefs in the Maliki school of thought) required to pray his afternoon prayers during a period of the day that clashed with his school class times. This behaviour concerned his class teachers and Local Authority social worker, who couldn’t understand why the boy couldn’t pray outside of his class times. When this issue was raised with our Foster carers – due to their lack of knowledge about the teachings of the branch of Sunni Islam that he followed – they were also unable to explain and understand his behaviour. This concern, along with a sudden increase in adherence to religious practice and how this young person chose to express his viewpoints to people around him, led to the school referring the young male to the Government’s Prevent de-radicalisation channel programme.
What did we do about it?
Foster Care Link’s team understood why the boy was behaving in this way. We educated our carers that his school of thought required him to offer his afternoon prayer in a specific time in order for it to be valid. We supported them to understand his perspective and equip them with the tools to engage him in meaningful conversation. Foster Care Link played an active part in providing contextual input, safe practice measures when increasing practice and highlighting red flags to keep a look out for. This assurance and communication allied our carers fears that the boy was becoming radicalised. Our team also supported the carers in understanding the differences in practice when performing prayer. FCL also worked with carers to assist with analysing how safe it was for the child in question to attend a mosque of his choice. FCL played a part in highlighting poor practice regardless of whether the person was a representative of an Islamic organisation. We also supported our carers to maintain close ties with the entire care professional network (social care professionals, school, police and the local authority prevent team) and to help them advocate confidently for the young boy’s right to worship and develop his religious identity according to his beliefs.
What was the outcome?
Through the meaningful conversations that we held with our carers, the foster child and the wider care professional network individually and collectively:
The foster child continues to pray without allowing it to clash with his education and other areas of his life;
He has also shown a greater tolerance for our foster carer’s less observant approach to their Islamic beliefs;
The foster child was able to process his faith, beliefs and identity in a way which complemented his place in the wider community; and
We were able to bridge the theological gap between the foster child and our carers, increase our carers understanding of the diversity in Islamic beliefs and practices, and give them the assurance and confidence to advocate to the school on his behalf.